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Racing Rocket Balloons
Try This! Science Lab

Fun that goes pfffttttt.
This experiment is fun to do with a few other people, so you can race your balloons. Look out for learning about jet propulsion, aerodynamics, mechanics, and friction.

Picture of kids racing balloons

WHAT YOU NEED

  • wire or string
  • balloons
  • tape
  • plastic straws
  • optional: permanent markers

STEP 1

Inflate a balloon. If you want, draw a face or wings or messages on your balloon.

Picture of kid drawing a face on a balloon

 

STEP 2

Use two pieces of tape to attach a straw to it. Attach the straw so that its ends are toward the top and bottom of the balloon. Now let the balloon deflate.

Picture of a balloon with the straw attached

 

STEP 3

Set up the race course. Measure the distance you want your balloon to travel. For example, if you want it to rocket across the room, measure the room. Then cut a piece of wire or string that length. Attach one end of it to the wall at the other end of the room or to a piece of furniture.

 

 

STEP 4

Thread the loose end of the wire through the straw on your balloon.

Picture of a kid threading wire through the straw on the balloon

 

STEP 5

Attach the end of the wire to a railing or chair back in front of you.

 

 

 

STEP 6

All together, blow up your balloons and pinch the neck to hold the air in.

Picture of kids holding the balloon closed with their teeth before racing

 

STEP 7

Ready, set, let go! At the signal, let go of your balloon and let it fly along the wire.

 

 

WHAT TO EXPECT

Your balloon may—or may not—zip along the wire or string. It depends on the angle and length of the “racecourse” and the positioning and length of the straw.

 

WHAT’S GOING ON?

As the air shoots out of the balloon, it propels the balloon along the wire or string.

 

 

GLITCH?

Balloons don’t go? Consider changing the position of the straw, or using a longer or shorter piece of straw.

QUESTION THIS: Think deeper about this experiment by answering these questions.


• What difference do the angle and length of the wire make?

• What shape balloon works best?

• What amount of air works best?

• What works best: wire or string?

 

All photos by Matthew Rakola

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